DENVER • The clock is ticking on two efforts to oust Senate President John Morse over the stance he took on gun legislation at the Capitol.
Two groups have organized to recall the Colorado Springs Democrat in an upcoming election, but first they have 60 days to gather the signatures of 7,178 registered voters in Senate District 11.
“It’s not just the gun issue,” said Robert Harris, the registered agent for the El Paso Freedom Defense Fund. “He told us he was going to focus on the economy, but all he’s focused on are guns, illegal immigrants, tax increases … It’s much more than the gun issue.”
The El Paso Freedom Defense Fund is a spin-off organization from the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, which began the effort to recall another gun regulation supporter — Rep. Mike McLachlan, D-Durango.
The group’s petition to recall Morse was approved Tuesday and it has reported $3,700 in in-kind contributions, but no cash contributions to date.
Morse pointed out that recall elections are difficult to pull off. He said he is fine with any outcome because he believes in what he and his colleagues have done.
“My fellow lawmakers and I knew that passing gun safety laws would draw criticism from a very vocal minority, even though the majority of Coloradans support the commonsense measures we adopted,” Morse said. “I have literally been stopped on the street by constituents, and, quite frankly, people wherever I go, thanking me for the work we did to help prevent gun violence.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed three bills into law last month mandating universal background checks, banning sales of high-capacity magazines and creating fees for background checks. Morse had also proposed a bill to hold manufacturers and sellers of military-style assault weapons liable for damages. That bill was never heard on the Senate floor.
Andrew Cole, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said to his knowledge, no legislator in Colorado has been successfully recalled, in part because of the relatively high number of signatures required.
To collect enough signatures — which represent 25 percent of the votes cast in the last District 11 election — a spokesman for the recall group said they will knock on doors and pound pavement.
“The biggest thing is that he refuses to listen to his constituents,” Harris said. “Hopefully he will listen to us when we get the signatures for the recall.”
If the signatures are determined to be valid, it will be left to Hickenlooper to put the recall on the ballot within a 30 day window that starts 45 days after the signatures are verified. Other candidates could then attempt to get their name on the ballot as an option to replace Morse.
The second group opposing Morse got a petition approved March 15 and has a much earlier deadline of May 14 for signatures. Attempts to reach the three women listed as sponsoring the petition were unsuccessful Thursday. The three named as sponsors on the petition are: Miriamber Daigneault, Alexandra Linarez and Melanie Tangelder. Nick Andrasik, spokesman for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, said the fund isn’t associated with Daigneault, Linarez and Tangelder.
“We reached out to them but have not heard back,” Andrasik said.
Organizing in support of the senator is the A Whole Lot of People for John Morse committee. The committee hasn’t raised money so far. Morse said he isn’t associated with the group.
Christy Le Lait, executive director of the El Paso County Democratic Party, said the pro-Morse group was founded to educate voters about the recall.
“It’s an abuse of the recall process to use it against people who voted against the way you wanted them to,” Le Lait said. “That’s what elections are for. It’s not grounds for a recall and recalls cost a lot of money.”
Morse has about 18 months left in office before he reaches his term limit.